Nine years after it was closed in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal officials are moving towards reopening the Boquillas border crossing between Big Bend National Park and Mexico.
The crossing there across the Rio Grande River long was used by residents of Boquillas, Mexico, who would come to the park to trade handmade goods with visitors at Rio Grande Village and to buy food. It also offered park visitors a place to safely cross into Mexico. When the crossing was closed in May 2002 by the Department of Homeland Security, it impacted this mixing of cultures in the park, as the nearest Port of Entry was more than 100 miles away.
"To reach this (Port of Entry) via Mexico requires hours of travel, including slow speeds on unpaved roads. As a result, there has been very little economic activity between the nations in this location," park officials note. "Local residents have long lobbied for re-opening the crossing, which has also been a priority for the NPS."
Finally, during a January visit to the area, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin came away in support of reopening the crossing. In doing so, he pointed to the following benefits:
* The presence of a POE will not contribute to vulnerability of the border. CBP and NPS partnerships with Mexico will add to the cooperative environment that has been developed over the last several years. That cooperation provides for continued security and commerce for both nations.
* The reinstatement of legal day trips to Mexico from within the park will contribute to the security and welfare of visitors and will also increase travel to the area.
But before work can commence on building a new Port of Entry facility, something envisioned to get under way this summer, the Park Service needs to prepare an Environmental Assessment (See attached)) on the project. Through March 16 the agency is taking public comments on this project, both those that focus on environmental issues related to the facility's construction and the general "views and ideas" on reopening the border crossing.
The following objectives were developed for this project:
• Provide the facilities needed for a secure and legal Class B Port of Entry for travel between the U.S. and Mexico;
• Facilitate international cooperation in the management of natural areas of bi-national interest;
• Enhance opportunities for visitor understanding of the historical cross border connections, travel, and use of the area, as well as current cross border requirements for travel; and
• Restore the historic connection between Boquillas del Carmen and Big Bend National Park.
Officials don't believe the reopening of the border here would create security problems, as the facility would verify the identities of those entering the United States there and since "this section of the border has not experienced the high levels of illegal traffic found at other locations along the U.S.- Mexico border."
To learn more about the proposal, the planning process, and to provide comments and identify issues for consideration, visit this Park Service planning site. You can submit your comments on that site, or mail them to Big Bend officials at:
P.O. Box 129
Big Bend National Park, Texas, 79834